Sunday, December 08, 2013

December Diary!!

I have had an incredibly hectic week. I have had many moments where I wanted to blog but I never found the time during the weekdays. I have 6 hours left before I go to a cousin's wedding and loads of work to complete before I leave. However, I want to gather my thoughts before they are lost in the melee of the upcoming week.

We are making a difference
I had been offering a lift to a boy from our school who stays a few blocks away from my house, whenever I saw him waiting at the bus stop on the route that takes me to school. On reaching school, he would get off the rickshaw and walk off without turning back and saying thank you. This boy was not one of those in the Teach for India classrooms.

Last Wednesday, I offered a lift to a girl from one of the TFI classrooms. On reaching school, she got off the rickshaw and waited. Once I had paid the fare, she told me a thank you, wished me good morning and left with a smile.

No matter how challenging everyday in class seems and no matter how slow the progress of our kids appears, at least they are learning something. The show of courtesy put a smile on my face that morning. I made sure I narrated the story to most of my co-fellows to share the small joys of our daily adventures with the kids.

Kids are learning Science now
We have changed the classroom structure. I have taken up the onus of teaching Math in addition to Science. While I am still learning the skill of teaching Math, I have been enjoying teaching Science. The more effort I put in a tight, activity based lesson, the better the kids grasp the concept. The data I gather from the class indicates a higher degree of understanding of the basics at least. Now I have to focus on ensuring retention of concepts. With kids who are challenged in literacy, the challenge is to make them remember and reproduce their learning through simplified ways of expression. My focus is on creating as engaging a science lesson as possible that pushes skills in both critical thinking and literacy. This means more work for now, but stronger structures for the coming 18 months.

Kids know and understand me better now
"They are JUST kids" is an over used statement. Kids have a high emotional quotient. They recognize the slightest change in your mood and temperament. When you are enjoying the lesson, they enjoy the lesson with you. When you are angry, they get impatient. When you are low on energy, they are low on energy. What I am liking more is that some kids even have started approaching me with feedback after a class on how they enjoyed the lesson. Being in control of yourself and channelizing the classroom's energy positively when you are having a long tiring day is not easy. Hence, it is paramount I learn to stay calm and in control of my expressed feelings all the time.

Kids need avenues for creative expression
We have started the Jafari Artists Project in which kids learn new skills in art, craft, dance and debating. Rajesh and I lead debating, which is the newest activity to them. Compared to the colour in art and craft and the fun of dancing, debating on the outset seems boring to the kids. Debating also requires them to push their thinking more, which some of them don't enjoy after a long day in school. But after having the first mock debate, I could see sparks of excitement in some of the kids. They actively questioned Rajesh and me with strong questions on some of our arguments. For example, as an argument against capital punishment, one kid questioned "What is the guarantee of a criminal reforming and not committing a similar crime again?" As an argument against corporal punishment, another kid argued that "Children of scared of teachers who hit so they don't ask questions. If they don't ask questions, how will they learn?" These were the small moments where I could see a debater in the making. My dream is for my kids to participate and win the TFI led inter school debating competition by the end of next year. It is ambitious but should give children something worth striving for.

The Team is everything
I have a team of 8 members including myself. Each of us have had our share of trials and tribulations. And the nature of our job is such that these are not just restricted to our work. Often, you see the effects spill over to your personal well being - both emotional and physical. Some of us were realizing how our morale was drooping ever since the semester started and the effect it was having on the students. We decided to have an honest face to face conversation in everyone's presence. And it felt good. While we are aligned on the broad priorities now, the focus is on converting these into actions. Things should hopefully fall in place both inside and outside the classroom this week for each of us.

The beauty of our job is it allows us to have these conversations. We are not competing with each other. We are working together to make things work for our kids. The better each one of us does, the better our kids will do. And we have to always strive for putting our kids on the path of change.

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